We’ve heard about blockchain revolutionising real estate, science, supply chain, banking, retail… the list goes on. The beauty behind blockchain is the inability for anyone to tamper with data records. As a result, data can be tracked and authenticated, with all events easily being verified.
Below MintDice delves into an example on how blockchain can help the food industry. Read on to find out more.
Blockchain and the food industry
Where human beings are concerned, there is a strict standard for what healthy food is. People also have many different preferences, pertaining to food types and sources. For some, a particular fish must be sourced from an exact part of the world, and for others, food must pass a certain religious condition, such as Halal for Islamic beliefs, or Kosher for Jewish beliefs.
People have conditions for the source and state of food products that can often be difficult to prove. It’s easy to tell a person that their favorite fish was sourced in Peru; however, in the absence of proof, anyone can lie about sources to ensure sales.
Theoretically, by stamping events and data as soon as it is recorded, blockchain creates an airtight supply chain in which the history of a food item can be verified.
Remember the Peruvian fish? Imagine if a person could scan a barcode on a fish pack and see the exact day it was caught, along with a geotag to show its location?
Imagine this system would also show the third parties involved in packing and logistics, as well as every process endured up until the point of reaching the retailer. Wouldn’t this be more convenient for the average person who has no way of knowing about their food products otherwise? This is what is possible with blockchain today.
But how would this really work?
For food tracking applications of blockchain technology, entering data into the system does not prove that the data is true in the first place. Such systems will most likely be consortium blockchains managed by the food companies, so they are not immune to manipulation.
The main importance of this system is that it erases the need for a lengthy paper trail that stakeholders cannot access. It also lays the foundation for data collection in a system that can be combined with other technologies such as sensors and actuators, to perform more complex agricultural tasks.
Why are food retailers adopting blockchain?
When there is no chain management system in place to trace the source of something as essential as food, bad things can happen. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this results in more than 125,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths every year.
This is a familiar story for Dole, a business that had to recall its spinach from 26 states, following a public outbreak of E.coli in 2006. This outbreak resulted in the death of three people, kidney failure in 31 people and symptoms like dehydration, nausea, and diarrhea in 205 people.
According to investigations, the outbreak may have come from the farm; however, without an airtight system in place, it was difficult to say for sure, therefore making it hard to find a solution.
There have been other cases, such as that of Foster Farms, a California-based chicken producer. In 2013, 634 members of the public were infected with Salmonella in 29 U.S states and Puerto Rico, leading to a recall on its products.
In 2018, another outbreak occurred, which spelled bad news for many people across the country who had gotten a bad batch of Romaine lettuce from Walmart. Like any other grocer would, the commerce giant cleared every speck of Romaine lettuce off its shelves until authorities could determine the cause.
Unlike other companies, Walmart did not stop there. Instead, it is investing in a potential solution — a blockchain system to track food and detect which products may be contaminated. The technology is being developed by I.B.M and will require its suppliers to input real-time data on every product supplied in every transaction.
Blockchain’s benefits for supply chain management
BETTER DATA FOR INVESTIGATIONS
When foodborne illness outbreaks occur, the authorities are faced with the task of combing through long paper trails to find the point of contamination. A blockchain supply chain can make this task easier, by showing where each product originated.
While this can be achieved by using a regular database, blockchains offer a high level of security that may be more difficult to bypass. Such data stored in one place can be useful not just for tracking the origin of infected food, but for tracing the buyers and ensuring that there are no further outbreaks.
CONVENIENCE FOR SHOPPERS AND RETAILERS
The application of blockchain technology in the food industry will give buyers a better idea of the processes involved in the creation and distribution of their food products.
Logistics could become less complicated because retailers would be able to check delivery truck availability in seconds within the same system while viewing the actions and transactions of other collaborators. The information would flow freely through such a system, creating much-needed transparency within otherwise private affairs.
DATA COLLECTION FOR RESEARCH
What better way to collect food data than through a secure system used by large corporations in the industry? Food tracking from the source to the final consumer can provide insights into how distribution can be optimized. From studying old food processes, better ones can be created.
Easily Trackable Food
Walmart’s application of blockchain technology is a giant step forward for the food industry. Finding a secure way to optimize the food supply chain network benefits every stakeholder involved. For example, if anything happens to a product along the line of production and distribution, Walmart can easily know who should be held accountable in every transaction.
Blockchain users have first-hand, decentralized access to real-time data that can be sold or distributed for free and have the opportunity to monetize their blockchain by allowing other companies to use it. Soon, blockchains have the potential to be a common presence in the food industry, and may eventually prove its value in other real-world applications.
Thanks MintDice for sharing THE APPLICATION OF BLOCKCHAIN IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY.
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